Help! My Dog’s Ear Tips Are Bleeding

Updated March 25, 2021

The picture above shows an ear problem in Adelaide that’s also found around the world. It only affects the margins and tips of the ears. The most common cause will surprise you.

Causes Of Ear Tip Scabs & Crusts

There are at least four reasons why a dog can have sores on the ear margin:

  • Damage caused by scratching or shaking due to an ear infection
  • Infestation with sarcoptic mange mites (‘fox mange’)
  • Other skin problems such as allergy
  • Attack by blood-sucking insects

Any ear tip injury that keeps being damaged by head shaking will heal slowly or not at all.

Ear Infections commonly lead to damage to the ear. However, it’s unusual that only the ear tip will be involved. Therefore, turn over the ear and inspect the ear canal. It may look red, swollen or dirty looking with a musty odour. Don’t forget to check the other ear as many problems are bilateral.

Sarcoptic Mange is quite hard to diagnose, but dogs are extremely itchy when you touch the ear edge. They are also itchy elsewhere, especially the elbows and the belly. If you’re using one of the products that treat and prevent Sarcoptes mites it’s very unlikely.

Other Skin Problems are extremely common, but once again there should be other areas affected like the belly, feet and under the tail. Click here for pictures of other specific head lesions.

Fly Bite Dermatitis is the most common cause of ear margin problems in dogs.

What Is Fly Bite Dermatitis?

ear bleeding sore

Blood-sucking flies prefer to target the edges of the ears of dogs. When dogs live in areas with these insects, repeated irritation causes crusts and scabs to form at the site of the bites.

Dogs then scratch or shake their heads and damage the area further, until it starts bleeding. Then it gets infected, making matters even worse. Eventually, you end up with a raw ear tip wound like in the picture.

This causes the dog to shake their head, propelling the ear tips at high speed against the side of the head. It’s not unusual to have sprays of blood right up your walls.

But I Don’t See Any Flies!

Flies come biting mostly after dusk so this problem mainly affects dogs that sleep outside. Owners rarely see the flies, which are often parasites of other animals such as horses.  If your dog sleeps inside, you should reconsider the other possible causes above.

Treatment of Fly Bite Dermatitis

You have two choices:

  1. Let your dog stay inside
  2. Use an insect repellent on the ears each afternoon (I find Muscaban® works best)

If you don’t act, the wounds tend to get bigger and even can cause permanent defects in the ear margin. Head shaking also often leads to the development of aural haematomas.

Treatment of Bleeding Ear Tips

Infected, painful ear tip wounds often cause more head shaking and damage in a vicious circle. Here are my recommendations to tackle this frustrating situation:

  • Treat the underlying condition
  • Use antibiotics to reduce secondary infection
  • Use anti-inflammatories to reduce pain and swelling
  • Use light dressings (heavy ones only make dogs shake more)

I have learnt over the years to use a very lightweight plastic adhesive strip (Band-Aid®) to cover the wounds. This prevents further trauma from head shaking, is very easy to apply, and is usually tolerated by dogs. These need to be changed twice daily and are only for temporary use after advice from your vet.

That, of course, is the final and most important point. Don’t go it alone; your vet will have much better advice based on your particular dog and their environment. Without proper attention to an underlying problem, you’ll just be in a vicious circle.

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Have something to add? Comments are welcome below and will appear within 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These help topics are from a series regularly posted on email and Twitter. Subscribe via email here to never miss a story! The information provided here is not intended to be used as a substitute for going to the vet. If your pet is unwell, please seek veterinary attention.

Andrew

27 Replies to “Help! My Dog’s Ear Tips Are Bleeding”

  1. Hello from California, Our large American Bully has has a tip of the ear wound for about 4 weeks, and it was due to our Australian Shepherd thinking he is a cow, and biting the ear. The wound is about 8 mm and it has been breaking open and bleeding every few days. So the underlying cause is his little friend, so now I am trying to figure out the best way to stop the bleeding. He is a big gentle giant and when we go out to the farmers market, he shakes his head and then looks like an extra large fighting beast (he is 170lbs).. I have heard also that one option is to use liquid band-aid (superglue) as long as infection is not present. Thoughts?

    1. Hi James. Some of these do seem to happen just from an injury that won’t heal due to repeated flapping. What I say in the article is still true, and I can’t stress enough the importance of antibiotics for these cases to reduce the irritation. As for the use of cyanoacrylate, I can’t comment but I would be sceptical.

  2. WE have a great dane mix that had flies open up the top of his ear and we have tried everything to do the bleeding with no luck. We tried a white powder the vet gave us, and it did not work, we try various bandages and he shakes them off with in a few minutes. We are almost through winter now and it seems like once a week he opens it back up. It walls look like a bad murder scene happened. I am ready to have the vet coterize it or anything else. We are coming into spring and the flies are going to elaborate everything. Please any help would be appreciated.

    1. Hi Larry. I certainly commiserate – it’s a frustrating problem. Have you tried some of the suggestions in the article? Particularly the use of stronger insect repellents or lightweight plasters. I’ve never tried cautery but I would be very cautious about using it.

  3. I have a pitbull she is a inside dog, rarely outside but one day she was scratching i look in her ears they looked clean. Next morning same thing scratching, I put coconut oil on it. Few days later her ear tip was hard, I left it alone thinking she just scratch it. It will be fine then a few days pass she shakes and blood just everywhere like a spray gun. I did actually take her immediately to a vca here in Santa monica, was told in almost exact words when they looked at her said I’m I think we’re under staffed we will take her check if she is stable and let you know, they came back with her said she is stable but the emergency vca can see her I said ok where is that literally she point and said that way, while my dog is dropping blood everywhere I said ok. I put her in the car we go to another, same thing understaffed. Couldn’t tell me anything , they literally tell me to make an appointment. .. ok. So I’m home I’m Google everything found olive oil to stop the bleeding, but her vet can’t see her in Malibu for a week.
    Her ear tip stops bleeding when I put olive oil on, but her ear is red inside but nothing black in there help

    1. Hi Carmel. It’s very likely that your dog has an underlying skin problem (there are many causes for this) with secondary ear inflammation and then scratching and headshaking causes the bleeding. Therefore, to address these you need to both stop the ear from being repeatedly damaged by flapping and scratching, and fix the underlying problem. Until you can get to a vet, cover the damaged ear tip with a small sticking plaster that you change twice a day, give her a bath and put on some good flea control but you’ll no doubt need to do more.

      1. Hi Andrew thank you for replying, I wish I could show pictures, her carnal is clear, I have tried warm olive oil. I have iodine, peroxide, and antibiotics, I put on the tip and the iodine did close and stop the ear tip bleeding but its still a bit red in both ears and has a little bumps.

  4. Hi there. My dogs ears look exactly like the picture at the top of the page. A small scab and lots of white “dandruff”looking stuff around it. Your article states that this is a common problem in your area. What is the diagnosis for the dogs ears in the first picture?
    Thank you!

      1. Thank you for your fast reply! So what is that white stuff then? I pulled some off my dog and it looked like it was dandruff. She had a bite on one ear but the white stuff on both ears. Thank you

  5. thanks. My daschound has fly bites on tips of ears, one worse than the other. im going to try the paper bandaids to cover. Ive got them to heal before buts its back. He also is aninside dog so imagine this occurs when dozing outside during the day.

  6. Side note..whoever took this photo, should be check for melanoma with the nail marking, it’s quite common in melanoma. . Unless this is a known bruising.

    1. Hi Cole. Thanks for the concern. It was actually an old dog bite which bled under the nail and has now grown out. Occupational hazard!

    1. Hi Carl. If the hardening is being caused by dried blood or scabs, you can gently soak it off with diluted chlorhexidine or betadine scrub, but to prevent it happening you’ll need your vet’s help.

  7. Don’t know how I didn’t realize this was probably from fly bite. My dog is inside dog but spends hours outside on weekend right before I got to work at night (to get all her pottying) out of her system before being left indoors alone for the night. Haven’t considered flies might attack her ears!!! I could KICK myself! Her wound looks almost exactly like that picture and I thought it was an HPV wound but the vet didn’t seem concerned about it.She got a bath after the vet visit and it looks better already. I’ve had dogs with fly bites before, that were full-time outside in the summer, but thi dog is an inside dog so I didn’t know what that was on her ear. Well now that I know, I know what to do

  8. You can try Vicks or similar ointment, my dog ears it heals the wound and keep stay away the from flies.

    1. Hi Howard. The trick is that they should be lightweight but still stick to the ears (the adhesive needs to be nowhere near the area needing protection – they’re only to stop small things getting big)

  9. Hi! My dogs ear flaps are bleeding with open wounds. Possibly flies are stinging them. Very hot and humid conditions. How can I treat them. It’s also cracking open. His in pain when he shakes his head. How can I treat them at home. What may be the possible reason? Should I use the regal brand for skin infections drops?

  10. Hi on the tips of my dogs ears are crusty blood scabs or something . It doesn’t look like bugs but he is always shaking

    1. Insect bite is the most likely cause, but you almost never see the insects. Of course there can be other options too so a vet visit is recommended.

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